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HARD TO GET (director: Ray Enright; screenwriters: Jerry Wald/Maurice Leo/Richard Macaulay/Wally Klein/Joseph Schrank/based on the story “Classified” by Stephen Morehouse Avery; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: Thomas Richards; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: Dick Powell (Bill Davis), Olivia de Havilland (Margaret Richards), Charles Winninger (Benjamin Richards), Allen Jenkins (Roscoe), Bonita Granville (Connie Richards), Melville Cooper (John Case, valet), Isabel Jeans (Henrietta Richards), Grady Sutton (Stanley Potter), Thurston Hall (John Atwater), Penny Singleton (Hattie), Irving Bacon (Gas Station Attendant), Jimmy Conlin (Dour Diner); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner Bros.; 1938)
“Fluff Depression-era romantic comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ray Enright(“South of St. Louis”/”Montana”/”Kansas Raiders”) adequately directs this fluff Depression-era romantic comedy, whose star power will put across the weak screenplay by Jerry Wald, Maurice Leo, Richard Macaulay, Wally Klein, and Joseph Schrank. It’s adapted from the story “Classified” by Stephen Morehouse Avery about a flighty heiress and her unexpected romantic adventure with an economically strapped gas station attendant.

Margaret Richards (Olivia de Havilland) is the independent-minded spoiled daughter of oil magnate Ben Richards (Charles Winninger), who refuses to accompany her mom (Isabel Jeans) and dad for a summer vacation to ritzy Newport and instead flees by the family auto. At the gas station, the attendant, Bill Davis (Dick Powell, fills the tank. Margaret tries to charge the gas to her father’s account, but the unaware attendant refuses to believe she’s a relative of the tycoon and since Margaret lacks the funds to pay for the gas, insists she must work off her debt as a maid in the station’s motel.

The outraged socialite asks her dad, who is on the board of the oil company that owns the station, to have Bill fired. But Dad believes his uppity daughter needs a life lesson, even if he gets the lad fired. Bill tells Margaret, whom he now takes for the maid of the Richards family, that his ambition is to open a chain of auto courts and all he needs is a financial backer. The scheming Margaret, who falls for the hunk, sends Bill to see her dad. He in turn palms Bill off on his wealthy connected friend Atwater (Thurston Hall), who refuses to see him. In the end, when the money-men learn that Margaret is backing Bill and they like Bill’s offering, they agree to allow Bill to be the high paid architect on his project and thereby Bill marries Margaret.

Even though it’s not a musical, Johnny Mercer and composer Harry Warren turn out a few songs. Powell croon two of them, including the Hit Parade hit “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby.” It’s not a bad effort for a bad film, but it left no lasting impression on me.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”